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Rajat Gupta: From lofty board room to lowly jail cell

The story of Indian American business titan is nothing short of legendary.

Written by Agencies | New York |
June 16, 2012 10:04:39 am

From being born into a middle-class family in Kolkata to reaching the stellar heights of the highly competitive world of Corporate America,the story of Indian American Rajat Gupta is nothing short of legendary.

With a career graph that could make the best burn with envy,Gupta,who boasts of posts like head of consultancy giant McKinsey,board seats at Goldman Sachs and Procter and Gamble and special adviser to the United Nations,among other things,has done what not many could have done in his 63 years of life.

A US court held Gupta guilty of providing insider information to Galleon hedge fund founder and friend Raj Rajaratnam,in one of America’s biggest insider trading cases.

Born in Maniktala in Kolkata,son of a freedom fighter- turned-journalist father and a school teacher mother,Gupta was orphaned at the age of 18.

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Ranking 15 in the IIT entrance exam of 1966,Gupta was admitted to IIT Delhi on a scholarship from where he did his B-Tech in Mechanical Engineering.

He then came to the United States for a graduate degree and finished top of his class at the prestigious Harvard Business School where he studied on a scholarship.

He landed a job at consulting giant McKinsey and quickly rose through the ranks.

In 1994,he was made the global head of the firm,the first non-American to hold that position.

Gupta’s enviable resume boasted of job profiles as board members of some of the biggest US companies. After 10 years at McKinsey,Gupta joined the boards of many corporations and nonprofit organisations.

In addition to Procter & Gamble and Goldman,he was a director of the AMR Corporation,the parent company of American Airlines.

The Rockefeller Foundation appointed him a trustee; he was named an adviser to the former US President Bill Clinton and Bill Gates,Co-founder and Chairman of Microsoft,on their global health initiatives. He is also the co-founder of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.

Gupta was also appointed as special adviser on management reform to then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

He additionally served on the UN Commission on the Private Sector and Development and was co-chairman of the United Nations Association of America.

While there are quite a few persons of Indian origin who have successfully handled leadership positions at one or another large global company,Gupta figures among the very few who have occupied corner offices of various such entities.

He is hailed as a poster-boy of Indians scaling great heights in corporate echelons abroad and his friends describe him as a God-fearing,”first-class guy”.

But then the climate changed and Gupta found himself in the thick of an insider trading case.

Gupta’s undoing began when his billionaire friend Raj Rajaratnam,a Sri Lankan,was charged by federal prosecutors of running of one of the biggest insider trading scams in US history.

Gupta met Galleon hedge fund founder Rajaratnam through another Indian-American McKinsey partner Anil Kumar.

Rajaratnam had made an anonymous contribution of a million dollars to the Indian School of Business,Hyderabad,which Gupta had co-founded with Kumar.

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